This profile was prepared when Rajendra Suwal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Rajendra is changing the way people view wetlands and, in the process, enabling them to see the correlation between their own health and livelihood and that of the wetlands. Rajendra encourages farmers living along the periphery of wetlands to see these areas both as an addition to their current resource base and as the key to allowing them to move to the next level of economic independence. To gain exposure to a broad range of audiences from all over the world, Rajendra has created natural sanctuaries, including one in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha and one of the principal tourist attractions in Nepal. Through a range of economic development and educational programs in such areas as grasslands management, species monitoring, ecotourism, tree planting, and wetlands fairs, he teaches the local people who live along the periphery of the wetlands, as well as the sanctuary's millions of visitors, to respect, protect, and profit from the wetlands. Rajendra and his staff involve local people in the management of the sanctuaries and in the conservation of resources in the surrounding areas. Through the success of the Lumpini sanctuary, Rajendra is bringing to the attention of Nepal's people and government–and indeed, to other countries as well–a model of community involvement in wetlands restoration and conservation.